Women's History Month: Ruth E. Carter becomes first Black woman to win two Oscars

Ruth E. Carter holds up her Oscar for Best costume design for 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' on Sunday, March 12, 2023, at the Dolby Theatre
Ruth E. Carter holds up her Oscar for Best costume design for 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' on Sunday, March 12, 2023, at the Dolby Theatre Copyright Jordan Strauss/Invision
By Tokunbo Salako with AP
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Ruth E.Carter's wish is that her historic win at the Academy Awards will offer more opportunities to women of colour.

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Given the enormous success of Everything Everywhere All at Once at the Oscars, you could easily be forgiven for missing one of the night's other significant and memorable moments for women. 

The ceremony also saw costume designer Ruth E. Carter become the first Black woman in history to win two Academy Awards. 

Four years after winning Best Costume Design for Marvel’s Black Panther, she took home her second honour in the category for its sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

As lead costume designer, Carter played a crucial role in making the film a cultural phenomenon with her garments helping to bring the fictional country of Wakanda to life.

"I pulled myself up from my bootstraps. I started in a single parent household. I wanted to be a costume designer. I studied, I scraped, I dealt with adversity in an industry that sometimes didn't look like me. And I endured,” she said.

“So I feel that this win opens the door for other young costume designers that may not think this industry is for them and hopefully they'll see me and see my story and they'll think that they can win an Oscar too."

In her acceptance speech, Carter thanked the film's director Ryan Coogler and asked if 'Black Panther' star Chadwick Boseman could look after her mother, Mabel Carter, who she said died “this past week.” Boseman died in 2020 of cancer at 43.

“This is for my mother. She was 101,” Carter said. "This film prepared me for this moment. Chadwick, please take care of mom.”

Carter then paid tribute to her mother backstage.

“I had a great relationship with her in her final years. The same relationship I always had with her. I was her ride-or-die. I was her road dog. I was her sidekick," she said. "I know she’s proud of me. I know that she wanted this for me as much as I wanted it for myself.”

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” grappled with the grief of losing Boseman, its superhero.

In her career, Carter has been behind-the-scenes in some of Hollywood’s biggest films. She’s received Oscar nominations for her work in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad and received praise for her period ensembles in other projects such as Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Ava DuVernay’s Selma and the reboot of ROOTS. She’s created costumes for Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy and even Jerry Seinfeld for the 'Seinfeld' pilot.

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